50 Of The Cutest Animal Parenting Moments Ever (New Pics)
Fire up our latest collection of funny parenting tweets and you'll know that moms and dads never get tired. Or, who knows, maybe you even have a little bundle of joy to remind you of that every single day.
Either way, we humans aren't the only ones who have to nurture our young. Far from it. And there's a fresh Twitter thread that beautifully illustrates this universal experience.
It all started when Shawna B shared a picture of a fluffy little family. "One of my favorite very specific image genres is cats that look completely unprepared for the realities of parenthood," she tweeted.
It quickly went viral, receiving over 350K likes and 50K retweets, and many people started responding to it with equally cute photos of animal parents. Continue scrolling to check them out!
The amount of time animals spend with their parents vary tremendously. It's not very common, but there are a few species who stick around mom for a long time—or even their whole lives.
The orangutan, for example, tends to do everything slowly, including leaving home. According to Helen Morrough-Bernard, a primatologist at the U.K.'s University of Exeter, the great apes give birth only once every 7 to 8 years, and the youngster will sometimes nurse until six years old—about the time a new baby comes along.
Most orangutan moms let the older offspring stay together for up to three years after the infant is born, but some chase the juveniles off after six months.
When the new arrival comes, the older sibling will "go off exploring on their own and may stay out overnight," Morrough-Bernard told National Geographic.
"I like to think of this as like a teenager going off to university and coming back in the holidays. They are not truly independent but are trying out their independence."
The African elephant world is another interesting case, as it revolves around women. The oldest, largest female is typically the leader, and females stay with their natal herd their whole lives.
Males leave their family group between age 9 and 18, and since a wild elephant's lifespan is about 56, that could mean up to a third of his life is spent at home.
Like in elephant society, female lions "are the stable social structure of the pride, and it's the males that come and go, taking over prides," Ed Spevak, curator of invertebrates at the St. Louis Zoo who has also studied African animals, explained.
Male lions always disperse for other groups in this fission-fusion society, and about one-third of females will go off to other prides.
While the animal kingdom is full of wonderful moms who care for their offspring, often putting their children above themselves, some take a very different approach.
Most lizards, for instance, "deposit their eggs, cover them, immediately forget they did that and move along," Nassima Bouzid, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Washington, said.
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Because they have a cloaca, an opening for their reproductive, digestive, and urinary systems, lizards might even think the eggs are "an uncomfortable and weird poop," and never think about it again.
Bouzid said the lack of parental care in most lizards may simply be part of a strategy to have as many offspring as possible in hopes that at least some will survive.
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But one lizard species goes even further—not only do their young never see the parents, they never see any adults of their species at all.
At least one population of The Labord's chameleon of southwest Madagascar's dry forests "will lay all of their eggs before winter. The eggs will then hatch just before the summer rains," Bouzid said.
The eggs spend eight to nine months developing and in the meantime, the adults will have aged and died.
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Interestingly, many insects actually receive parental care. But not moths and butterflies. They lay their eggs on host plants and leave their offspring to whatever the world throws at them.
"Some lay their eggs near ant nests and the ants take care of the caterpillars. It's like Moses in miniature," Katy Prudic, an entomologist at the University of Arizona, said.
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They can be really cunning. Let's also look at the caterpillar of the large blue butterfly.
It secretes a sweet substance attractive to a particular species of red ant and makes itself smell like an ant larvae so the ant takes it back to its nest with its own brood, which the caterpillar then eats.
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Some young have a natural defense to protect themselves from predators via toxic chemicals from their host plant—and others have pitch-perfect camouflage.
The common lytrosis of eastern North America, for example, can perfectly disguise itself as a twig. And if it happens to fall off its background branch, it can use its silk to attach a "zip line" and pull back up.
They might not have someone to give them a hug like the boys and girls in these pictures, but at least they got an evolutionary "inheritance" from their parents to survive!